12 Dog Diseases Every Dog Owner Should Know About
Every dog owner should be aware of the 12 most common dog diseases. Some of these diseases are deadly, while others can be treated if caught early. This list does not include the more serious diseases such as cancer-diabetes etc. By being familiar with the symptoms and treatment options for each disease, you can help keep your dog healthy and happy. So, what are the 12 diseases every dog owner should know about? Keep reading to find out!
Heartworms are worms that live in the heart and lungs of their hosts. Dogs are the most common hosts of heartworms, but these parasites are known to infect other mammals (such as cats, ferrets, and wild rabbits). Humans are not a natural host for this parasite. Heartworms are NOT dog to dog contagious because the parasites are spread by mosquito bites.
The only way for a dog to contract heartworms is through the bite of an infected mosquito. The larvae mature in 6-7 months, reproduce rapidly and can grow as long as 12 inches. They have a lifespan of about 7 years. A badly infected dog can have hundreds of these parasites clogging their lungs, heart and surrounding blood vessels.
Symptoms of heartworm may be a mild cough, fatigue, decreased appetite and weight loss. Badly infected dogs can develop a blockage of blood-flow and cardiovascular collapse called Caval syndrome.
The best treatment for heartworm is prevention. Heartworm prevention medication should be given regularly as these medications are highly effective-but not 100%. Therefore, annual heartworm tests should be given to all dogs as a precaution.
When treating an infected dog, the American Heartworm Society (AHS) recommends the use of a drug called melarsomin, injected in three separate doses, along with other medications. At this time it is very important to limit a dogs’ activity so the parasites do not break off and spread throughout the system. The treatment for heartworms can be touch and go and is a costly and dangerous process.
The importance of keeping a dog on heartworm prevention medication cannot be overstated-it is critical!
More great information can be found at the American Heartworm Society Website.
2. Intestinal Worms
There are several types of intestinal worms that cause health problems in dogs. They are a very common disease in dogs. We are going to take a brief look at four of them: roundworms, hookworms whipworms and tapeworms. Generally, a fecal exam is needed to detect worms as most worms are not detectable to the naked eye.
Roundworms may be transmitted to a mother to their puppies during birth or even from the nursing mothers milk. Female roundworms can produce up to 100,000 eggs in one day. The eggs are encased in a hard shell and can last in soil for several years! When eaten by a dog, the larvae hatch and grow in the intestines. A severe roundworm infection can cause death. Fortunately, they are many dewormers available to treat this parasite.
Hookworms are slender worms with a hook-like mouth that attaches inside the intestines of its host. These tiny worms can only be detected under a microscope. A severe infestation can kill puppies. Hookworm larvae is passed to puppies through their mother’s milk. Contact with feces-contaminated soil also spreads this parasite as the larvae can burrow through the skin of a dogs paws. Hookworms are treated by administering a dewormer medication.
Whipworms live in a dog’s large intestine and are very difficult to detect. A dog becomes infected with this parasite by ingesting soil, grass, feces etc. that is contaminated. Whipworms look like tiny pieces of thread! These worms intermittently shed eggs in a dogs’ stool which can survive for years. A dog with whipworms may have a negative stool sample one week and positive the next!
Most dogs develop few symptoms, making this parasite even harder to detect. Fortunately, this is not a life-threatening condition and can be treated with medication.
Tapeworms are a long, segmented worm that is carried by fleas. These worms live in a dogs intestines and can reach 1-2 feet in length! Most dogs do not become sick but you may notice them scooting across the floor and an irritation around the anus. You may see tiny “rice-like” grains around their hind-side. Tapeworms can generally be treated with over the counter medications specifically labeled to treat them.
More information of treating worms in dogs-including natural methods can be found at Dogs Naturally.
The parainfluenza virus is often called by other names such as the canine influenza virus and greyhound disease. Previously, the virus only affected horses but has mutated and now infects dogs. Currently, no other species is threatened by parainfluenza.
Parainfluenza virus can spread rapidly from dog to dog and cause life-threatening symptoms. Any area with large dog populations, such as kennels and pet stores are susceptible to the rapid spread of this highly contagious virus.
Canine parainfluenza is transmitted from dog to dog contact or by coming in contact with their feeding bowls and/or bedding. It is also transmitted trough airborne particles via coughing or sneezing.
Some symptoms of this virus are a persistent cough, high fever, sneezing, running nose, inflamed eyes and lack of energy. A blood test is generally used to detect the virus which can be treated with antibiotics.
There are parainfluenza vaccines such as the DHPP Vaccine that treats other conditions as well. Read more about it at PetMD.
4. Kennel cough
The common cold in humans can be caused by many viruses, just as kennel cough in canines can have many causes. One of the most common causes is the Bordetella bronchiseptica m bacterium. This is the reason kennel cough is sometimes called Bordatella.
Kennel cough is a highly contagious form of canine bronchitis sometimes referred to as canine infectious respiratory disease (CIRD).
It is transmitted through airborne droplets and direct contact with dog food bowls, toys, bedding etc. Some common symptoms are a hacking/honking cough, sneezing, runny nose and low grade fever.
It is commonly spread in areas where many dogs are in close contact with each other. It usually takes about 2 weeks for symptoms to develop, and while it is not serious for most dogs, a severe form of pneumonia may occur. Treatment generally involves antibiotics and rest.
Dogs should be vaccinated against Bordetella bronchiseptica and canine parainfluenza to prevent the virus.
Leptospirosis is a contagious disease that spreads through a dogs’ bloodstream. It is caused by a type of bacteria called Leptospira. This is a severe, life-threatening disease that often causes serious damage to the kidneys and liver.
The infection rate for Leptospirosis has been increasing in several countries in recent years. It is one of the most widespread zoonotic diseases in the world, which means it can be spread from animals to humans. Leptospirosis in humans is a serious disease also known as Weil’s disease. While these bacteria can be found world-wide, it occurs more frequently in muddy, marshy, tropical environments with stagnant water.
Leptospira can enter the body through the nose/mouth and through open sores and scratches. Dogs are exposed by drinking water from streams/rivers, exposure to wild infected farm animals or other wild animals such as skunks, deer, raccoons, and wolves. Rodents also pose an infectious threat, as do other infected dogs.
Some symptoms of infection are diarrhea and vomiting (possibly with blood), fever, loss of appetite, stiffness and soreness and dehydration.
Once infected, these bacteria move rapidly through the dogs’ bloodstream settling in the tissues where it multiplies. Leptospira tends to congregate in the kidney and liver, often damaging them beyond repair. In about 10 days the dog will begin to develop antibodies. Some will successfully overcome the bacteria, in fact this study found that 25% of healthy unvaccinated dogs had antibodies to Leptospira!
A routine blood test will not diagnose Leptospirosis. Two definitive tests for Leptospirosis are the DNA-PCR and the microscopic agglutination test (MAT).
Treatment for these bacteria involves antibiotics given in two separate phases. Dogs generally respond well to the medications but if the internal organ damage is irreversible-the long term prognosis is poor. Care must be taken by the dogs’ owner to handle the infected dog with care by using gloves and keeping the dogs’ area clean. The infected canine should be separated from other animals and humans (specially children).
There is a vaccine for Leptospirosis but it is only stops certain strains of the bacteria, so it is not 100% effective.
Read more about testing for Leptospirosis and treatment VCA Hospitals.
Giardia is a parasite that lives in the intestines of mammals, birds and amphibians. There are several “sets” of Giardia, which is the scientific term used to describe the numerous subspecies of Giardia. Each subset focuses on a specific group of animals, but all Giardia subsets have the same life cycle and mode of transfer.
The life cycle of Giardia has two phases. The mature form is called a trophozoite, which lives in the small intestine. This is where they multiply to form cysts. Cysts are excreted in feces and are contagious. Cysts are highly resistant and live for many months, especially in water/damp environments.
To get the parasite, your dog must ingest Giardia. Your dog can get Giardia by drinking water contaminated with feces or by eating something that is contaminated with feces, such as grass. There are many ways your dog can come in contact with this parasite, weather chewing on a stick, drinking from a standing puddle, eating feces etc.
Some symptoms of Giardia are Diarrhea, gas, mucus in the feces, vomiting and weight loss. Usually, the treatment includes antibiotics and/or antiparasitic drugs such as fenbendazole.
There is no medication that will prevent Giardia in dogs so cleaning up feces and not letting your dog drink from puddles are good preventative measures.
Although humans getting this parasite from their pets is rare-it can happen, so personal hygiene is paramount!
Distemper is a highly contagious viral disease that afflicts domestic dogs and other animals such as ferrets and raccoons. It is an incurable, often fatal, disease that affects the respiratory system, gastrointestinal tract and the central nervous system.
Canine distemper is caused by a virus called Paramyxoviridae. This the same family of the viruses that causes measles, mumps, and bronchiolitis in humans.
The disease is spread by dog to dog contact and inhalation of airborne droplets.
Some symptoms include fever, lethargy, coughing and vomiting. A condition called “hard pad disease” may also develop where the dogs paw pads enlarge and harden, becoming very painful.
Canine distemper is preventable through vaccinations, therefore the most susceptible to this disease are puppies and unvaccinated dogs.
It is possible for a dog with distemper to survive, but often with lifelong health issues such as seizures and recurring bouts with pneumonia.
As with many conditions, prevention (vaccination) is the best treatment!
Canine hepatitis is indicated by a chronic inflammation of the liver. It can be caused by a poor diet or by repeated exposure to various toxic elements in the environment.
Some studies show that hepatitis can be caused by bacteria, but this is not conclusive. Other research has shown that many of the drugs used to treat other illnesses in dogs may damage the liver and cause hepatitis. A copper storage malfunction also may cause this liver problem and, in fact, some breeds such as the Dalmatian, Doberman Pinscher and Bedington terrier, are predisposed to develop copper related hepatitis.
Some studies have shown an increase in hepatitis in dogs to the rise in popularity of dog food manufacturers supplementing dog foods with copper.
There are three types of hepatitis in dogs:
- Metabolic-due to the liver being exposed to toxic chemicals over a period of time
- Infectious-caused by canine adenovirus which is spread through contact
- Autoimmune-chronic inflammation caused by the dogs own immune system attacking liver cells
Some symptoms of this condition are decreased appetite, lack of energy, increased urination and thirst, vomiting and diarrhea.
A veterinarian will generally perform a blood test and urinalysis as well as a liver ultrasound to check for hepatitis. There is no cure for this condition but a modified diet and possibly steroid therapy and treatment with UDCA (ursodeoxycholic acid) may have a positive effect of the liver.
You can read an excellent science based article of chronic hepatitis in dogs at topdogtips.com.
9. Lyme disease
Lyme disease is a bacterial illness transmitted by ticks-specifically Ixodes ticks, also known as deer ticks or blacklegged ticks. (For more information and identification of tick species, visit LymeDisease.org.)
The symptoms of Lyme disease in dogs generally occur 3-5 months after the initial tick bite. Some symptoms may be a fever, stiffness and swollen joints, lethargy and loss of appetite. It can be difficult to diagnose because symptoms appear in less than 10% of affected dogs!
Once inside the bloodstream the bacteria, Borrelia burgdorferi, travels to different organs and joints where it can cause severe kidney damage, seizures and cardiac arrest.
To diagnose Lyme disease, a blood test is needed. Additionally, a C6 antibody test may be done and a urine protein screening. If a dog tests positive, they will be treated with antibiotics for 30-60 days.
Experts recommend against antibiotic treatment for asymptomatic dogs as the dogs immune system is fighting the bacteria.
Humans can get Lyme disease from a tick but it cannot be transmitted from dog to human.
Rabies is a fatal virus which is spread through the exchange of blood or saliva from an infected animal. This disease appears throughout most of the world and infects mammals, including humans. There are cases where birds contract rabies, but they cannot transmit the disease to other animals. Raccoons, skunks and foxes are the most common carriers of the virus and in the United States, cats are the most widely reported pets to suffer from rabies.
After an infected bite, the rabies virus enters the nervous system and reproduces rapidly, spreading to the salivary glands where the virus is shed. It quickly travels to the brain, where.after about 14 days, symptoms will begin to appear.
After about three days, called the prodomal stage, the dog will progress to one of two forms of rabies:
This is more common in dogs. The dogs face becomes distorted, and they salivate uncontrollably It will appear they may have something stuck in their throat. The dog will develop a progressive paralysis of the limbs and will eventually become comatose and pass away.
In this type of rabies, the dog will develop an increased appetite, sometimes eating things such as dirt or stones. They will become highly aggressive and excitable. Eventually, they will begin to suffer from seizures and paralyses will develop.
Rabies is a fast moving virus and once symptoms begin to appear, chances of survival are minimal. The rabies vaccine is very effective but if your dog has been bitten by a rabid animal, you should take them to the veterinarian, if their vaccines are up to date-the vet may give them an additional rabies “booster” shot. You may be required to quarantine the dog for up to 14 days.
There is no treatment for an unvaccinated dog with rabies-they re generally quarantined and eventually euthanized.
You can read more on “How to Prevent Rabies in Dogs”.
Clicking the above map will take you to rabiesaware.org where you can check state by state laws for rabies requirements.
Parvo is a highly infectious virus that causes severe illness and death in young and unvaccinated dogs. It in not an airborne virus. It lives on the ground, infected feces, peoples hands, clothing any many other surfaces. It can live outdoors for years and is resistant to many disinfectants-although bleach has been found effective in destroying parvo.
Parvovirus cannot be transmitted from dog to human but if you come in contact with an infected dog you could easily spread the virus by touching another dog.
Once a dog gets parvo, the virus reproduces in the small intestines, lymph nodes and bone marrow causing sever stomach upset and inflammation of the heart.
Some symptoms of an infected dog are bloody diarrhea, fever, vomiting, lack of energy and weakness.
There is no cure for Parvovirus. Dogs usually require hospitalization, IV fluids and antibiotics. According to the Merck Veterinary Manual, the survival rate for dogs that get treatment is between 68% – 92%.
According to a study published in the Journal of the American Veterinary Medical Association, some breeds are more prone to developing Parvovirus:
English Springer Spaniels
Although research has shown an increased risk for these breeds, scientists are not sure what causes the connection.
As with many of these common dog disease, vaccination is critical!
12. Canine Coronavirus
Canine coronavirus (CCV) is NOT the same virus as SARS-CoV-2 that causes coronavirus (COVID-19).
Canine coronavirus infection (CCV) is a highly contagious enteric disease that occurs in dogs around the world. This virus is common in both wild and domestic dogs. Coronavirus reproduces in the small intestines and lymph nodes. A CCV infection is usually a relatively mild illness with occasional symptoms or no symptoms at all.
As with many of these common dog diseases, CCV is transmitted trough contact with an infected dogs feces, feeding materials or the infected dog themselves. Symptoms, if any, will generally develop in 4-7 days and may include diarrhea, lack of appetite and fever. A dog may carry the disease for up to 6 months after infection.
Adult dogs will generally fight off the infection without problem but CCV can pose a higher risk in puppies suffering from severe diarrhea leading to dehydration. Canine coronavirus is the second leading cause of diarrhea – parvo is the first.
There is no specific treatment for CCV, antibiotics may be used to treat secondary infections that may occur. There is a vaccine available but it is not recommended for all dogs.
12-Common Diseases in Dogs – Conclusion
Knowledge is the key to keeping your dog healthy. Vaccinations and maintaining a sanitary environment are critical. Good nutrition is paramount. Do you have a story about your dogs experience with one of these common dog diseases? We would love to hear from you!
Want to know which dog breeds are effected by diseases such as cancer, Arthritis, Heart Disease etc?